Oilers notebook: Game 1? Game 2? Henrique nearing return to the lineup

“Right now, I don’t know where I’ll play him but he adds to our team, whether that’s helps our second-unit power play or the penalty-kill but more importantly for his secondary scoring.”

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Adam Henrique’s cheerleading career is almost over.

The Edmonton Oilers forward, who suffered a lower-body (suspected ankle) injury in Game 5 of the Los Angeles Kings series, skated on left-wing with Leon Draisaitl and Dylan Holloway at practice Wednesday before the team flew to Dallas.

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Ostensibly, Henrique was a practice place-holder for Evander Kane, who has been his usual rambunctious self in the playoffs but a frequent abstainer for practice because he’s been playing hurt, but Henrique is very close to being a playoff participant, to borrow one of Ken Hitchcock’s favourite words

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He’ll could potentially play Game 1 Thursday or Game 2 Saturday. Where? Who knows? Maybe he starts as third-line centre and they move Ryan McLeod to the wing with Warren Foegele and Derek Ryan slides back to the fourth line. But maybe not.

“It’s painful watching, I’m kind of pacing. When you’re playing, you’re in the game, in the moment, in control, but not having that (as a player), yeah, it’s hard to take. I’m pretty quiet, but it’s funny watching with other guys to see how they react. Some are more stressful than others. I try to avoid them,” said Henrique.

Henrique hadn’t been in the playoffs for six years before the Oilers traded for him and said he didn’t re-aggravate the issue after playing Game 2 against Vancouver after he was hurt in a scrum against Los Angeles.

“It’s been a day-to-day kind of thing. I think we’ve been on the same page every day as to how we’ve gone about it, with the coach, the (medical) staff and myself. We’ve all made the right decision and hopefully it continues,” said Henrique.

“You’re always hopeful things progress quickly. At this time of year you don’t have a lot of time, you’re fighting that, with the schedule and how you’re feeling. The games are coming every other day. Time ends up being the enemy.”

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The Oilers have missed Henrique’s portability since they got him at the deadline along with centre Sam Carrick for a 2024 first-round draft pick — wing, centre, penalty-killer — and they will need him against the deepest top 9 forward group in the playoffs in Dallas. So deep that the Stars are missing centre Roope Hintz (possible broken hand) but they shrugged their shoulders, and slid Matt Duchene into his spot against Colorado.

“He’s really close and we expect him early in the series,” said coach Kris Knoblauch.

“Right now, I don’t know where I’ll play him but he adds to our team, whether that’s helps our second-unit power play or the penalty-kill but more importantly for his secondary scoring. Whether that’s putting him on the top two lines and spends some with Leon or Connor (McDavid) or he could help the third line.”

Henrique got into Game 2 against Vancouver, after the opening 5-4 loss to the Canucks, but he only played 11:38 . Not too much, but too soon.

“The game he did play in we had a lot of question marks (health-wise, like Draisaitl). We thought we needed to (dress him),” said Knoblauch, who chose to let him rest and recover so he’s 100 per cent.

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HERO WORSHIP

They’ve playfully taken to calling defenceman Cody Ceci “Mr. Game 7” after his opening goal against Vancouver Monday, on the heels of one against Los Angeles in 2022.

And, this is far from faint praise.

No Oiler blueliner has ever had goals in two different Game 7s.  Lee Fogolin (1984 vs Calgary), Kevin Lowe (1989 vs Los Angeles), Boris Mironov (1997 vs Dallas) and Janne Niinimaa (1998 vs Colorado) are the only other Oiler defencemen to have scored in a Game 7.

Hard to believe but current Oiler assistant coach Paul Coffey didn’t have any here, but then Oilers rarely were extended to Game 7s in Coffey’s time as an Oiler before he was traded to Pittsburgh in the fall of 1987.

Two games against Calgary, one against the Flyers.

“I did see that stat afterwards so I’ll have to let him know,” joked Ceci. “Any games where you can contribute is great, especially when a series is on the line. Paul has a lot of confidence in my shot and has been telling me to shoot more.”

“Yeah, every day,” said Coffey.

BEST HOCKEY NAME EVER

Sherwood Park’s Sam Steel, now anchoring the fourth-line in Dallas and on their first PK unit after he played a few years with Henrique in Anaheim, seems to have found his footing with Dallas. Anaheim chose not to make him a qualifying offer to keep his negotiating rights after he was their first-round draft pick

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“Everybody goes through different situations whether it’s contract, new staff in and out, who drafted you,” said Henrique, remembering Steel’s early Ducks’ days.

“But Sam’s a great person, works extremely hard off the ice and you can see it on the ice, too. He’s smart and it’s great to see him find a role in Dallas. I’m certainly glad things have worked out for him.”

NO ORDINARY JOE AS PUCK-TIPPER

Oiler defenceman Darnell Nurse is good at moving people from in front of net so goaltender Stuart Skinner or Calvin Pickard can see the puck on shots, but Stars forward Joe Pavelski is a different animal because nobody deflects pucks like the oldest forward in today’s NHL, a few months from turning 40. He has a PhD in that skill.

“It’s tough against him. He’s had so success for so long in this league at that. Even when you think you’ve boxed him out, he gets sticks on pucks,” said Nurse.

This ‘n that

Kane has played his usual robust playoff style, going head-to-head against big Nikita Zadorov, but he’s been a post-season “maintenance day” regular. Prior to the playoffs, Kane told reporters he’s been dealing with a sports hernia..

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Hintz, sixth in the 2024 Selke trophy voting, didn’t skate with main Dallas group Wednesday, so he’s likely out for Game 1…

Jack Campbell hasn’t been practising with the main group but it’s likely he’s going to Dallas as the No. 3 goalie…

Oiler backup Calvin Pickard got the W 4-3 in Dallas, their lone victory in three games, just after the all-star break…

While Miro Heiskanen and Chris Tanev get most of the hype on the Stars’ blueline, let’s hear it for Thomas Harley, whose dad Brian used to be the No. 3 goalie for U of Alberta Golden Bears before moving to Syracuse where he’s an orthopaedic specialist.

Harley, who has played on Canada’s world junior team, is second in ice-time in the playoffs with 24:36.

“I think this guy should be on the radar of the Olympic team (selectors) and the Four Nations next year,” raved Stars’ coach Peter DeBoer in conversation with Mike Heika on the team website.

Brian Harley, born here, played on the Golden Bears when Billy Moores was head coach in the early 90s.

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